By Victor Okoye
Nigeria began the race towards defence of its African Under-23 title on Wednesday on a sour note with a 0-2 loss to Libyan in Tunisia.
The match played on the artificial turf of the Ben Guerdane Stadium in Bergandan, near Tunis, is a first round first leg encounter in the qualification series.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles team was aiming to replicate its achievements of 2016.
The Nigerian team featuring the likes of Villareal forward Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Nwakali, Azubuike Okechukwu and Dennis Bonaventure had an early setback by conceding a goal after five minutes.
The team however settled into the game gradually to control possession with a dominant midfield play, but found it hard to crack the opponent’s defence.
But while the team was trying to find an equaliser, goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar was sent off just before the half-time break.
Adamu was sent off after he handled the ball outside the penalty area.
Olawale Oremader later in the second half replaced Bonaventure as the Olympic Eagles began to battle with 10 players.
The team would have got the much needed equaliser in the 53rd minute when Awoniyi was presented with a goalscoring opportunity, but he failed to finish off a cross from Chukwueze from the left.
The Nigerian side was made to rue the missed chances when the opponent’s team doubled the lead in the 69th minute after a sweeping counter-attack move.
Nigeria now has its work cut out in the crucial return leg fixture at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Tuesday to keep the hopes of making the African tournament alive.
The tournament billed for Egypt in November is to produce Africa’s flagbearers at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.